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Lib Dem budget would find more for schools and mental health

February 16, 2018 1:53 PM

DCC sign (Signs Express Exeter)More money for young people's mental health, children with special needs and Devon's schools is at the core of the alternative budget launched by the county's Liberal Democrats - but all amendments put before Devon County Council were voted down by the Conservatives when they passed their new budget on Thursday.

The council's Conservative Group voted through a further £20m of reductions to services, following the latest round of government funding cuts. These cuts will involve 30 health visitor posts, cuts to foster carers and school counselling services.

Cllr Alan Connett, Lib Dem opposition leader at County Hall said: "By cutting waste and duplication, we have found savings that could be used to keep important services that benefit our communities. It's about making better use of what we already have."

The Lib Dems have found funding to protect schools, mental health care and children with special educational needs by cutting waste and cracking down on expensive consultants and stand-in managers. Planned cuts to mental health services for young people would be stopped and £223,000 given back for care and treatment.

An extra £500,000 was earmarked for services supporting children with special educational needs and the highly controversial cut of £2.2 million imposed by County Hall Conservatives on schools across the county would be reversed.

An extra £6.5 million announced for road repairs and highways drainage was welcomed by Devon Liberal Democrats, who have been campaigning for the extra investment.

Cllr Connett said: "We welcome the extra money planned for some services, but you can't hide the fact that cuts are planned by the Conservatives which can be avoided."

Devon County Council is spending over £1 million a year on expensive consultants and stand-in managers. The Lib Dems, who uncovered the spending, want to cut that budget to a quarter and use the £750,000 saved to help protect key services.

The axe would also fall on Conservative spending plans for nearly £2 million on public relations and advertising, more on hiring meeting rooms, and ending the yearly car allowance of up to £453 for staff driving less than 10 miles a week for the council.

In a bold move, the council's Economic Development service would be radically changed, freeing up £899,000 with more partnership working planned with local district and borough councils and Exeter City Council.

Cllr Connett explained: "There is so much duplication in economic development activity. Local councils are working hard and investing in this area. Our view is that Devon can work differently and support our local councils."

Further savings of £150,000 would also be taken from the council's planning function.